My friend Viru and I were as always discussing the state of the nation when I said, “You know bro, on the corruption index India is way up the pecking order while on the index of happiness it is almost at the rock bottom.”
“Ramen, there is one index where our beloved nation is at the very top!” Viru said.
“The indices of population, pollution and poverty?” I asked.
“Of course not, it is the index of tolerance!”
“See, India since the time it was Bharat, has been a hugely tolerant nation. Believing in the dictum of Atithi Devo Bhava, we welcomed our invaders right from the Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Mughals to the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British. Soon many of these so called visitors, particularly the Mughals and the British turned from guests to conquerors and the rest, as they say is history.”
“You are quite right. But now with Bharat morphing into India, don’t you think the situation is different?”
“Hardly. In February 1999, our former PM, Atalji went to Lahore to sign a historic treaty with his counterpart. A few months later our dear and trusted neighbor Pakistan launched an offensive in Kargil. Would any other country have tolerated this kind of skulduggery? But India did. We merely wrested back our territory and went back to singing the hymn of tolerance.”
“On 26/11 in 2008 Pakistan sent a bunch of terrorists to attack Mumbai. There was a bloodbath and many innocent lives were lost. A fanatic called Kasab was captured. Instead of hanging him promptly, what did we do? We put him on trial to exhibit to the universe our values of forbearance and fairness. And the government spent more than Rs. 53 crore on this Athithi who apparently was more than a Deva.”
“No other country would have been so magnanimous,” I agreed.
“Last December when our Honourable PM made a surprise visit to Lahore, how did Pakistan reciprocate? By unleashing an attack on Pathankot on 1st Jan – its way of wishing our nation a happy new year. It is clear that every time we extend an olive branch, our deceitful neighbour retaliates with a dastardly gesture. Yet we continue with our anthem, ‘Yeh dosti ham nahin todenge’ – if this is not tolerance then what is?”
I nodded in agreement.
“And now listen to the latest. There is this televangelist who has been openly advocating terrorism and supporting terrorists. He has been banned by several nations. However, India continues to tolerate him. One prominent politician even shared the dais with him a couple of years ago and called him the ‘Messenger of Peace’ and a sage who could bridge the chasm between communities.”
“But don’t you think these are isolated incidents, by differently opinionated individuals?”
“What do you mean, a couple of days ago a right wing leader based in Hyderabad declared that he shall provide legal aid to terror suspects. And except for condemning the statement what have we, as a state, done?”
“Oh yes. That proclamation was truly appalling. But what is the way out?”
“We as a nation cannot and will not shed our policy of tolerance. It is in our DNA. So let us suggest to the Nobel Committee to declare a Nobel Prize for Tolerance. That way at least we shall get a coveted award and our standing in the league of nations will be truly enhanced.”
“And who do you think should be sent to receive the award?”
“Good question – to parade our ‘Tolerance’ credentials to the entire world we should send the prominent politician, the televangelist and the terrorist sympathizer to receive the award.”
“That’s a brilliant idea, Viru,” I said, doing high fives him.